The world of college athletics is extremely dynamic – one where no two days are ever exactly alike. It’s probably what drew many of us in to coaching and wanting to compete at this level – the ability to learn from and also impact young people for the better using our respective sports as the vehicle for change.  Pat yourself on the back, leaders!  You pour in to the young people that fill your roster on a daily basis (I’ll spot you the mandatory day off per week for your CARA logs).  Indeed, it seems that a coach’s job is never done – never completely caught up.  Student-athletes, similarly, have incredible demands on their schedules all while equipping themselves to take on the world upon graduation.  Both team leaders and coaches are typically the ones looking to empower those around them. They probably serve as mentors in many cases.

Road sign with a background of blue sky and clouds. The intersecting signs are qualities of mentors and read: Help, Support, Guidance, Assistance

Here’s the question though:  As you continue to help shape the lives of others, who is helping to shape you?  It is so easy to become consumed in helping others that we forget we need help too.

Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup (Dangit, I said I wouldn’t use a cliche this time…..but I did….at the drop of a hat).

Soooooo, who is pouring in to you? Who is in your corner helping you in your development both personally and professionally?

A mentor, or even multiple mentors, are sorely needed for all of us who choose to embrace this ever-evolving world of college athletics.

The tricky part is finding the right mentors:

  • One who strikes the perfect balance between guiding you and challenging you.
  • One that knows when to push you past the limits you created in your mind, and one that knows when to  put their arm around you and tell you, “It’s going to be ok.”
  • One that is not squeamish and knows that sometimes they have to let you fail in order to fully grab hold of the lesson
  • And most importantly – One that has walked a mile in your shoes but knows that there are many routes to the same destination.

That’s a tall order for any mere mortal, and great mentors are not easily attained.  It’s not like they wear a stickered name tag that reads, “Hello My Name Is Mentor…..And Yes, I’d Love To Help You Right This Minute.”  (Somebody get on that though – cause it needs to happen).

There are, however, a few ways to get out there and find the mentors that you desperately need.  Pro tip before we dig-in:  You’re going to have to play offense!

LOOK AROUND:

Consider your current network and mentally make a list of people you want to emulate.  Perhaps it’s a peer who is wildly successful on the playing surface.  Maybe it’s somebody in administration – if that is your long-term goal.  It can even be somebody outside of college athletics.  Remember, It’s easy to be successful; the challenge comes in doing so in the right ways.  What’s important is to take in to account the personal values these people have – and chose wisely based on those values that align with your ownIt's easy to be successful; the real challenge comes in doing it the right way. Values matter. Click To Tweet

ASK: 

This is, undoubtedly, the hardest part.  The trick is to understand that you can ask without using words. (Read that last sentence again….slower).  By building up a relationship over time, you can create a mentor for yourself without ever coming out and explicitly asking, “Will you be my mentor?”  A simple “I’d love to pick your brain later this week and get your thoughts on an issue I’m having,” is a wonderful place to start.  From there, the mentorship can evolve organically.

FOSTER:

Once you’ve gotten a few exchanges under your belt, and you feel that there is worth and value in the relationship, don’t let it die out.  Most people in a position to mentor are busy.  After all, it’s their success and hard work that drew you to them in the first place.  In the early stages, you may need to fight for it to gain traction.  As you “box out” on time and space with your potential mentor begin asking more targeted questions.  These questions should be open-ended – ones that will make the potential mentor pause and think deeper.  I’ve come to learn that asking challenging questions – questions about things happening on a strategic or macro level is a welcome reprieve from the mundane tactical level questions they get asked much more frequently.

CARE: 

Be creative and make the most of the rare opportunities, especially in the beginning.  Showing that you take the time with your mentor seriously is another great way to gain additional face time.  Be invested in their life and demonstrate that you’ve done your homework on their background and current challenges. Take full advantage of any free content they share – read their work and watch their videos. Continue asking questions and seeking advice, BUT make sure you are prepared and able to offer commentary of value when probed.  If you’re doing it correctly, a mentor-mentee relationship is just that.  It’s give and it’s take.

Prove that you’re willing to learn first – then prove that you have insight to contribute.

Do that with a great commitment and a keen focus, and do it consistently.  Eventually the hard line of mentor-mentee will dissolve in to an even more robust relationship labeled confidant and friend.

A strong mentor makes all the difference.  It gives you a sounding board and creates an ally.  It gives you permission to push past the barriers you create in your mind– and it allows you a safe place to both test and challenge new ideas. A strong mentor makes all the difference. It gives you a sounding board and creates an ally. Click To Tweet Lastly, and this part is really important, if you’ve benefitted from having an amazing mentor – send the elevator back down and help the next ones up.  Give back tenfold what you’ve been given.

OK folks, Go forth and be brilliant!

Do you have a mentor?  If not, what’s stopping you?  If you do, what is the next evolution in the relationship – how can you begin to add value reciprocally?  

Comment below or on social media using #BrilliantBeyondSport.

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